A Circumcised in heart
… And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power: In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ…
C7.1 The heart is wicked
Previously we considered what the true circumcision is, and how God promised that there would be a time coming when He would take the responsibility of circumcising Israel’s heart. However, if we think that a stiff necked and uncircumcised heart is peculiar to Israel, then we need to think again. As we shall see in this article it refers to every human being from Adam (with the obvious exception of the God-man Jesus), and also the remedy that God has provided.
Egypt, and Judah, and Edom, and the children of Ammon, and Moab, and all that are in the utmost corners, that dwell in the wilderness: for all these nations are uncircumcised, and all the house of Israel are uncircumcised in the heart.
In a remarkable portion of scripture Jeremiah cries over the sins of Judah and warning of punishment. But then at the end of the chapter we have the verse quoted above. The house of Israel is no different from the Gentiles, they are all uncircumcised in heart.
This very much reflects Paul’s conclusion in Romans. There is no distinction between Jew and Gentile, everyone is under sin, all have sinned and have come short of the glory of God.
What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin;
Continuing in Jeremiah we later read.
The sin of Judah is written with a pen of iron, and with the point of a diamond: it is graven upon the table of their heart, and upon the horns of your altars…….. Thus saith the LORD; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the LORD. For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land and not inhabited. Blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.
The above is a well known scripture that states emphatically that the heart is desperately deceitful above all things. And the answer to the question, who can know it?, is given that the Lord searches the heart. The word used here for deceitful in the Hebrew is crooked, the same root word a for Jacob!
We also note that those who trust in man, that is to say the flesh, are cursed and inhabit the parched lands. What did we read in Philippians? Those are the true circumcision who have no confidence in the flesh. Was Paul thinking of this portion of Jeremiah when he wrote his letter? Who knows? But the point is clear. We can not achieve righteousness by our own efforts, our hearts can not be trusted, they do not have the ability to keep God’s ways.
C7.2 A new heart
Again the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Son of man, thy brethren, even thy brethren, the men of thy kindred, and all the house of Israel wholly, are they unto whom the inhabitants of Jerusalem have said, Get you far from the LORD: unto us is this land given in possession. Therefore say, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Although I have cast them far off among the heathen, and although I have scattered them among the countries, yet will I be to them as a little sanctuary in the countries where they shall come. Therefore say, Thus saith the Lord GOD; I will even gather you from the people, and assemble you out of the countries where ye have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel. And they shall come thither, and they shall take away all the detestable things thereof and all the abominations thereof from thence. And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh: That they may walk in my statutes, and keep mine ordinances, and do them: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God.
If we cast our minds back to Moses’ final discourse to Israel we noted that God promised that He would circumcise their hearts. The point of circumcision being is that they would then be able to keep God’s commandments and ways. Having had many centuries of life in the Promised Land and not being able to keep God’s Law, and after being exiled for seventy long years God said He would bring them back to the Land.
As we see in Ezekiel this came with the promise that God would remove the stony heart, giving in its place a heart of flesh. For what purpose? That they may be able to keep all that God requires. The only remedy to this deceitful wicked heart is a new heart! This is what God promises!
C7.3 A new Covenant
Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.
But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more. In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.
Jeremiah prophesies of the New Covenant. In the passage quoted the prophet makes it plain that Israel broke the Old Covenant, and there would be a New one; it would be different. It would mean that God would write His Laws upon their hearts. Unlike previously where Jeremiah said Israel’s heart had their sins engraved on it. Instead the new heart that is is promised will have God’s Laws implanted thereon, so that God’s commandments will no longer be prohibitions but promises! That is the new heart gives us the ability to keep His ways.
The writer to the Hebrews takes up this passage and shows its fulfilment in Christ. Jesus is the mediator of the New Covenant, which is established on better promises. A new heart is given and God’s Laws are written on it, and all shall know God from the least to the greatest. This together with forgiveness of sins! And we do nothing except to believe God and He does the rest.
So the question is: what was the fault with the Old Covenant? The answer simply that although it made demands on the people of God’s requirements, it did not give them the ability to live it! In the New Covenant we have a new heart and the power to live that required life. The body of sins is put off, and we become true worshippers of God in spirit and truth having no confidence in the flesh.
My cup it runs o’er,
I have comfort and power,
I have pardon – what can a poor sinner have more?
He can have a new heart,
So as never to start
From Thy paths: he may be in the world as Thou art.
I have faith in Thy blood,
It hath brought me to God,
And I in Thine image shall soon be renewed,
I shall be throughly clean,
And all holy within;
Thine image can harbour no relics of sin.
Man’s heart is wicked, no matter if one is a Jew or a Gentile. It needs God to deal with the heart and in a radical way, because we can not sort it out. Praise His name though, God has taken upon Himself the responsibility to circumcise our hearts so as to have the body of sins put off, and enable us to worship God in spirit and truth.
The first aspect of our completeness in Christ is that of the circumcised heart. The gnostic way of salvation was secret knowledge for the heart, God’s true salvation was that of a new heart! This is the work of God unto salvation. It is through the finished work of Christ on the cross, and not some secret initiation rite.
The question reader is: have you had this circumcision of heart; have you reader, had your sins dealt with and received the new heart? If not you can do so now. You need to repent , turn to God and believe in Christ.